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Keys to the Game - Colorado Buffaloes vs California Golden Bears

BERKELEY CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes passes against of the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on September 11 2010 in Berkeley California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
BERKELEY CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Jimmy Smith #3 of the Colorado Buffaloes passes against of the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on September 11 2010 in Berkeley California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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Tennessee Logo

0-1, 0-0
NR (Coaches Poll)

September 10th, 2011
Colorado Buffaloes vs. California Golden Bears
Where: Folsom Field - Boulder, CO
1:30pm MT

TV: FCS Pacific
Radio: AM 850 KOA
Live Stats: ESPN
Line: California -6.5
Sunny, 75 degrees at kickoff

Tennessee Logo

1-0, 0-0
NR (Coaches Poll)

Colorado_mediumPaul Richardson Needs to Be Targeted 10 Times

It's very apparent that Colorado has only a few playmakers and the best one is WR Paul Richardson. Against Hawaii a week ago, he had 3 catches for 49 yards and two scores. His two scores were great but quarters went by when he wasn't targeted. In the second and fourth quarter, not one ball was intended for Richardson. That can't happen.

more after the jump

Colorado_mediumOffensive Line Play Must Improve

Yes, this is the most obvious statement of the statement of century but it really will be the deciding factor if the Buffs want to win their first game of the year against a solid California defense. This week will be a big indicator whether this unit is going to struggle all year or if they respond and take their game to another level. Cal has a very deep front seven on the defensive side of the ball and can get after the quarterback. Last week against Fresno St., Cal sacked the quarterback six times and six additional tackles for loss.

You know the stats from last week: 17 net rushing yards, 240 total, seven sacks allowed, three quarterback hurries, and 2 of 12 on third downs.

That is bad.

Hopefully the Buffs get LT David Bakhtiari back from a sprained MCL he suffered just seven plays in against Hawaii. But losing Bakhtiari was just a piece of what went wrong last Saturday. If Bakhtiari doesn't return, the Buffs will once again play three offensive linemen with very limited experience in LT Ryan Dannewitz, RT Jack Harris and OC Daniel Munyer/Gus Handler. Coming into the season, none of the four had started a collegiate game and only Dannewitz had played in a game.

Colorado_mediumHave to Run the Ball Better on First Down

Against Hawaii, the Buffs attempted to run the ball 12 times on first down which netted them 13 total yards. The Buffs were in second and third down & long all day. In fact of CU's 12 third down plays, 10 were from more than 6 yards to gain. On those 3rd and 6+ yard plays, Colorado went 0 for 10. On the 3rd and less than 6 yards to gain, CU went 2 for 2. This offense is not setup to convert 3rd and longs.

Running the ball successfully will do wonders for this team. It gets the offense into a rhythm, keeps the Buffs out of second and third & longs and makes the offense that much harder to defend since it keeps defensive linemen and linebackers honest instead of just take a straight line to the quarterback. It also keeps the Cal offense off the field and doesn't let the game become a shoot-out, something I don't believe the Buffs can match Cal on.

Last season in Berkeley was a perfect example of what happens when you can't run the football. The Buffs averaged just 1.7 yards per carry which led to Colorado attempting to throw the ball more than they wanted, turning it over five times and getting pummeled by 45 points.

Colorado_mediumKeep the Pressure Up

Many felt the Buffs were too aggressive last week against Hawaii, bringing extra defenders to get to Bryant Moniz and in return, allowing some open running lanes for the quarterback. I believe Colorado should still continue to bring the heat, especially this week against California.

This California offense is a little bit of a different beast than Hawaii. Instead of having a big named quarterback, they have two NFL talented receivers in Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. Cal's QB Zach Maynard is still relatively inexperienced. The best way to rattle this offense, in my opinion, is to get pressure on Maynard and see how he responds. Last week against Fresno St, Maynard was pretty inaccurate, completing just 46% of his passes. If Maynard has time to sit back against three man rushes and gain confidence, it could be a long day for CU.

Safeties Ray Polk and Anthony Perkins need to have a bigger impact on the game if Maynard does decide to run.

The only other complaint from the first game against Hawaii was some poor tackling efforts. With Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones coming to town, they will make Colorado pay if the defense continues to miss tackles.

Colorado_mediumBe Creative With Tyler Hansen

Don't make Tyler Hansen a sitting duck back in the pocket. Against Hawaii and last season against Cal, the Buffs failed to adjust when pressure was breaking down. Getting Hansen outside the pocket with a potential run/pass option will help the offensive line and allow the senior to use his athleticism to make plays. Also, a great way to help the offensive line and frustrate the opposing team's pass rushers is an efficient quick pass game. Three step drops, five yard out routes, slant routes to get the ball into Richardson's hand while not allowing the defensive line to get into a rhythm would be a solid way to start the game.